Valexpat has met Alaine Handa in Singapore, and interviewed her on her interesting life as a TCK, but mostly about her wonderful idea of mixing Chokladbollar making with elements taken from the various countries she has lived in. Thank you Alaine!
Since she was born, Alaine Handa has been calling “home” a lot of different places. Born in Singapore from a Hakka family (coming from the Southern China), Alaine soon moved with her family to Jakarta, Indonesia. At 7 years of age, Alaine and her family moved back to Singapore.
She had been living in her hometown until the end of High School, but she always spent a long period of time, during summer, in Australia and California, visiting her relatives. She enrolled for University in California, and then she moved to New York.
In 2012, she returned to Singapore, but only for 3 years: in 2015 Alaine decided to move to Switzerland, to study Hospitality Management, and then to move to Brussels for her internship. Now Alaine spends her life between Europe and Singapore.
With such a mix of experiences, language and traditions in her background, in 2015 Alaine decided to start a blog: www.travelwithalaine.com. During her postgraduate in hospitality management, she took on an internship in social media for a hotel company, and her blog was the best way to showcase her abilities and tell the world about all the amazing places she has been living in since she was born. To do more writing about travels, she also collaborates with the website www.slowtravelstockholm.com.
In 2015, Alaine had a conversation that will change her life.
I have met her in Singapore to find out more about her interesting story.
She told me about how, when she is at home, she likes to eat chokladbollar, traditional sweets that grandmothers teach their grandchildren how to prepare.
I had already tasted chokladbollar when I was living in New York” Alaine continues “and I loved them. They reminded me of my grand aunt’s rum balls, back in Jakarta, who used to prepare biscuits with chocolate, condensed milk and butter. So, when this woman told me how easy it is to make chokladbollar, I decided that I had to try making my own chokladbollar.”
What most people don’t know about the chokladbollar (literally chocolate balls) is that they are very easy to prepare, and they don’t require baking at all.
“The traditional recipe of chokladbollar comprises oats, coffee, butter, sugar and coconut. I started preparing the small and delicious sweets 6 years ago, for friends and family, and I never stopped. Of course, at the beginning, I had to do a lot of trials, and I also made a lot of mistakes, but with time and experience, I can now prepare chokladbollar that are pretty good in my opinion”.
I have tasted them and I can assure you that Alaine’s chokladbollar are delicious. To perfection her recipe, Alaine also travelled across all Sweden, to see how the traditional sweets are prepared in different cities.
I put a little bit of my expat experience in every chokladbollar I prepare!
And then, Alaine had the idea to bring her experience as an expat into the chokladbollar making.
“The preparation of chokladbollar is usually quite consistent across the different cities, with only minimal variation from the traditional recipe. I decided to put together my passion for chocolate balls and my life as a Third Culture Kid, preparing chokladbollar with ingredients from all the places that I have lived in.
Some of my recipes include in fact matcha (a strong green tea from Japan), kaya (coconut jam very common in Singapore and Malaysia), bakkwa (a Chinese salty-sweet dried pork jerky meat also typical in Singapore), and even s’mores (marshmallows and biscuits melted together, commonly eaten in the USA). I put a little bit of my expat experience in every chokladbollar I prepare!”.
A year and a half ago, Alaine decided to write a book about her journey to find the perfect chokladbollar.
“I submitted my idea to Summertime publishing and Springtime books, a publisher that helps expats around the world and that also publishes book about expats, business and scientific journals and cookbooks.
The whole concept was very well received, so my dream of getting my book published came true and it was a whirlwind experience.
This also brought me to visit Sweden more often, to collect information. From the simple chokladbollar, I learned a lot about fika, lagom, specialty coffee, single origin cacao, and Swedish culture”.
The book is called In search of the best Swedish chokladbollar, and was published on 19th November 2018.
Alaine’s In search of the best Swedish chokladbollar is now available on her website (https://www.travelwithalaine.com/shop), but also on Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes & Nobles, Akademibokhandeln, Adlibris, Bokus, Waterstones, and other major online retailers and bookstores online as well as at The English Bookshop in Stockholm and Uppsala and The Moon bookstore in Singapore. As of now, she and her marketing team are working hard to get the books distributed in various independent lifestyle stores and bookstores around the world.
Before we said goodbye, I ask Alaine to tell me about what she has learned as a Third Culture Kid.
“In these situations, parents are the ones who make the decision to move. Kids don’t have a say, and they might feel very angry. For a Third Culture Kid it is very difficult to answer the question: “Where do you come from?”.
My advice to any expat kid who is experiencing what I have gone through is to think that home will always be where you live. The best way to deal with all the moving and changes is to embrace the past and welcome the future, thinking that moving or not moving is neither a good or a bad thing per se.
Also, living as an expat means that the world is out there! Growing up as a Third Culture Kid I realized that I have never been scared to go where I wanted to, where I felt I’d belong. Regardless of your skin colour or culture, you will always be more open to different experiences, and you will feel free to move around the globe, knowing that every place can be home.
Also, I believe that living in different countries will give every kid the capability to be more empathic towards people that are living in a country that is not the one where they have been born, and that they will become more open, tolerant and understanding adults”.
Alaine Handa with Valentina Mosca (Valexpat)
Photo Credit ©AlaineHanda